Services Held Outside Guarded Clairton Church
CLAIRTON, Pa. (AP) _ A jailed Lutheran minister whose supporters were arrested during the occupation of his embattled church, says ″evil is working harder than ever″ in the unemployement-plagued Monongahela Valley.
About 100 supporters of the Rev. D. Douglas Roth gathered Sunday outside Trinity Lutheran Church for weekly services after sheriff’s deputies inside the church denied them entrance.
″The state is physically in control of this church ... But God has strange and powerful ways to reveal the corruption of our power structure, our bishop, the judge and sheriff who suppress our American constitutional rights,″ actor David Soul said in a sermon written by Roth.
Soul, of television’s ″Starsky and Hutch,″ also played a tape from Roth, who said ″evil is working harder than ever″ to keep them from serving God and the economically troubled Monongahela Valley’s unemployed workers.
″To silence the gospel is a scandal,″ Roth said. ″This is heresy on the theological level and unconstitutional on the state level.″
Soul, the brother of a Pittsburgh-area Lutheran minister who supports Roth, aid Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Emil Narick ″selectively″ applied the law last week when deputies ousted and arrested the occupiers.
Deputies broke into the stone church Friday and arrested seven people, including Roth’s wife, Nadine, and another Lutheran pastor, the Rev. William Rex, who were barricaded inside for several weeks in defiance of a court order.
Three of the protesters, in addition to Wayne Cochran, the church council’s president who turned himself in, were sentenced to 60 days in jail for civil contempt of court. The other four were to be sentenced today.
Narick also sentenced Roth to another 30 days in jail, to be served concurrently with the 38 days remaining on his original sentence, for encouraging the others to defy the court order.
Roth, 33, was jailed Nov. 13 after refusing to obey western Pennsylvania Lutheran Bishop Kenneth May’s orders to relinquish the Trinity pulpit.
The church will remain closed and under observation indefinitely, May said late last week. ″It is hoped that this will enable all concerned with unemployment to get on with the issues at hand to help people.″
The Rev. Beth Siefert, like Roth a member of the Denominational Ministry Strategy, conducted the hour-long service from behind a draped card table on the church’s front sidewalk. The DMS is a pro-labor group of clergy who have supported the confrontational tactics of the Network to Save the Mon-Ohio Valley, a group composed mainly of out-of-work steelworkers.
One of the worshipers, Helen Becker, broke into tears when Roth and his eight jailed supporters were mentioned in prayer. Her son, Darrell Becker, president of Shipbuilders Local 61, was among those arrested inside the church.
″I’m exteremely proud of him, not because he’s my son but because he’s a human being who has principles and believes in humanity,″ she said.
The Network to Save the Mon-Ohio Valley has used controversial tactics such as spraying synthetic skunk oil at local banks and protesting at various churches to draw attention to the struggle of the unemployed.
The groups blame Pittsburgh corporations for the area’s high blue-collar unemployment by their overseas investing.